The United Kingdom does not permit gay marriage and does not currently recognize same sex marriages performed in other countries. However, gay couples in the UK can enter into a civil partnership, which entitles them to many of the same benefits as marriage.
Couples who want to form a partnership must register their intentions with local councils. Unlike the rules for opposite-sex marriages, the signing of partnership papers for a civil union doesn't need to happen in public.
There has been a wide argument by gay rights activists that civil unions and civil partnerships are another way to separate gay couples from mainstream society. However, civil partnerships in the UK, introduced at the end of 2005, were widely publicised as 'same sex marriage', with many of the couples undergoing civil unions reporting themselves to be married.
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